Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Honor is not earned. It is given.

When you think about the idea of "honor", you probably think about people who deserve to be honored because of what they've done. We honor our sports heroes who win championships. We honor the high-achievers who win spelling-bees and robotics competitions. We honor musicians who entertain us with hit songs.

We rightly honor our veterans who were willing to give their all to ensure our well-being. It is good and appropriate for us to often honor the sacrifices made by those who served our country.


Most of the time, we honor those who have earned it through their actions. However... God also expects us to honor people, not because of what they've done, but because of who they are! Paul writes in Ephesians 6:2:

“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise).

To honor is to:
- prize
- respect
- value
- view as worthy

Paul expects people to honor their parents, not because their parents have earned it, but because they have been appointed by God to that position of authority, responsibility and accountability.

We all have people in our life that may not have earned our honor/respect/value, yet God expects that we honor them because He has placed them in a position of authority over us. They might be a teacher, a boss, a manager, a police officer, an elected official, a coach or something else. If they are in a position of authority, God has allowed them to be there and He expects us to honor them.

As long as they are not leading you into sin, are you willing to demonstrate honor to them as you would to Jesus? This is a tougher challenge, isn't it? But it is a key element of living the Jesus-life. I hope you'll give it a try.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Everybody Hurts. Yet Joy Can Be Found In Suffering.

It is a joy to serve God.

If it isn’t, you’re probably just serving yourself by pretending to serve God.

Being a servant of God means several things which on their own should bring enough joy to sufficiently quell any unhappiness.

  • Being God’s servant means I am dwelling in the household of God. Although it isn’t Eden exactly, it is the closest we on the post-fall earth can come. 
  • By serving God, I am willingly participating as a member of his family and community. 
  • Being a servant of God means I have meaningful and eternal work to accomplish. God does not call us to mundane, repetitive work; but rather to the greatest, most important task imaginable; we are called to participate in his redemptive work. 
  • Being a servant means I have security. I do not need to worry about my safety or my future. My master will take care of me. If I trust that God is more powerful than any force, I can be certain He will not be overpowered or surprised by anything that comes into my life. Thus, I can trust his provision and protection, knowing whatever I face I do so by my master’s choice and with my master’s permission.


Therefore, suffering (or the entrance of undesired circumstances into my life) is nothing unexpected to my master, and therefore is is something about which I can be joyful. These aren't my ideas, but rather those of James, the brother of Jesus. He said:
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds."
Truthfully, the key to understanding James 1:2 is found in James 1:1 and it is the word "servant". If I truly understand servant and sovereignty, I can count anything joy (including trials of various kinds) if I understand that I am a servant of God.

REM (musical group from the 1980s) said, “Everybody hurts.” The truth in this broken world is that everyone faces trials of some kind. For some the trials are extraordinarily difficult, life changing, horrific circumstances. For others, the trials are relatively much smaller.


James doesn’t differentiate between small trials and large trials, and thereby let those who suffer greatly off the hook. Rather, he says whatever the variety of trial may be, these truths still apply. No matter what your trial is, you can approach it with joy. After all, most of us, no matter how big our trials are will never face the scope of trials dealt with by Job or Jesus.

Even though we may not always bring our trials upon ourselves, often we are somewhat responsible for some of the circumstances leading up to our suffering. Even when we are not, we can always point to poor decisions we have made which mercifully did not lead to severe suffering. Jesus, however, never acted once in a way which deserved suffering. Yet, no one in history suffered more than he did when he died. Yet, he counted it joy because he counted himself as a suffering servant!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

#Thanksgiving -- My Drawer Runneth Over

I like t-shirts. I especially like shirts with logos of my favorite sports teams. I also have a problem getting rid of old t-shirts. Earlier this week, I put on a shirt that I calculated to be at least 10 years old. As a result of my inability to let go, my shirt drawer is overflowing with Spartan, Tiger, Red Wing, Lions, Liverpool, Warrior, Trojan and Bruin shirts.

Let me be clear. My drawer is not overflowing because of any one shirt. It is overflowing because I have SO MANY shirts.

Ephesians 5:20 says, "giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ"

The key words here are "everything" and "always".

Colossians 2:7 is a parallel passage. Here Paul is encouraging a group of Christians to live consistently with their roots in Jesus' example and teaching. This is accomplished, according to Paul, by "overflowing with thankfulness." Saying, "thank you" every so often is nice, but a quick prayer of thanksgiving once a day is hardly "overflowing."


Causing anything to overflow requires filling it with more than it can handle. If you want to overflow with thanksgiving, you must FILL your life with more gratitude than you can handle. This means being thankful even when you don't feel like it.

  • Begin your day by giving thanks (you can start by thanking God that He woke you up). 
  • At various points throughout the day (meals), give thanks. 
  • At the conclusion of your day, give thanks. 
  • When things go well, give thanks. 
  • When others treat you with kindness, give thanks. 
  • When things go poorly, give thanks that they aren't worse. 
  • When others treat you with malice, give thanks that you are being treated like Jesus was. 

You can always find something for which to be grateful. The more you thank God, the more you'll be rooted in His Son.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Find Someone Who Will Tell You When You're Wrong

On Sunday, we talked about gaining wisdom. I thought I would make the most of this opportunity by diverting to Proverbs for a day. Since it's the 25th day of the month, my Proverb for today is chapter 25.

Verse 12 says this:
Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear.

I have only ever owned one gold ring. It is precious to me. Several years ago, I was on a youth mission trip and was playing an old African drum with my hands. Suddenly, my wedding ring flew off my finger... in two different directions. I was devastated. No earthly possession was more important to me and now it was destroyed. (read to the end for the conclusion of this story)

A gold ring (or other gold ornaments) is valuable because it is created from a precious metal. The reason my ring was so important to me was because it represented my relationship with Marianne. Gold is not at the heart of this proverb. Value is the primary idea.


Solomon (the author) is telling us that we must place a HIGH VALUE on those who are willing to reprove us.
"REPROVE" = reprimand, rebuke, reproach, scold, admonish, chastise, chide, upbraid, berate, take to task, rake/haul over the coals, criticize, censure; 
If someone is willing to correct you or warn you that you are headed in a bad direction, don't ignore them or attack them. Value that correction! We do not gain a great deal of wisdom from those who tell us we are doing everything right. We gain wisdom from those who tell us we need to change.

In Ephesians 5, Paul says to PAY ATTENTION to how you fill your life. He challenges us to walk wisely. Solomon makes it clear that a wise walk places a high value on those who challenge us to be better.

--------------------------
In case you are wondering, the reason my ring broke was because I had spent so much time that summer in swimming pools (I was a youth pastor and a father of young children). The pool chemicals had exposed and then exploited a tiny weakness in the metal. I was able to get my ring repaired and today it is as good as new and as precious as it was the day Marianne put it on my finger.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Jesus won't unfollow you; So keep following Him

I remember sitting at the beach one day watching our kids play in the surf and build sand castles. As I scanned the beach, I noticed a father and son walking along the waters edge. The boy was probably only three or four years old and trailed behind his dad by several yards. What caught my attention was that the son was doing everything in his power to walk in the footprints of His father. He had to jump each step in order to land in the next step, but it was clear that more than anything else, he wanted to be like his dad.

We are created to be followers. We follow our parents, we follow our friends, we follow our favorite sports figures. Growing up, I followed Isaiah Thomas because he was a short basketball player having great success in the NBA. I watched his games, I studied his style and I tried to imitate his game (in case you're wondering, it was a poor imitation). To follow someone is to watch them, study them and imitate them.


This morning, my Ephesians study took me back to the beginning of the book to review where we've been to this point. I didn't get past the first verse before I was struck by Paul's description of the Ephesian Christians. He wrote:
This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. I am writing to God's holy people in Ephesus who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus.
Paul knew these people because he had spent three years leading their church. When given the opportunity to describe them, he called them "faithful followers". They were watching Jesus, studying Jesus and imitating Jesus; and they faithfully kept doing it day after day after day.

I usually do a pretty good job of watching Jesus and studying Jesus, unfortunately I'm not always so good at imitating Him. My words don't always sound like His words. My attitude isn't always the same as His (check out Philippians 2 for more on that). My actions don't always impact others the way His did.

I need to follow Him more closely. I need to check myself regularly and ask whether or not I'm imitating the person I most admire. I hope you'll do the same!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

I'm A Secret Agent...

I've been reading through Ephesians 4 repeatedly for the past few weeks. This chapter is full of lists and practical applications so I'm enjoying it.

One of my observations has been that Paul is really focused on how our relationship with God changes EVERYTHING about us. In this chapter, he points out that it changes our words, our attitudes, our work ethic and our relationships. Everyone of these changes serves to make us more mature and to look more like Jesus.

At the same time, all these changes are also beneficial for the people around us. When our words match His words, they are building up others. When our attitude matches His attitude, it is inspiring for those around us. The same is true for our work ethic, our generosity, etc...


So the question I'm asking myself today is:

Has God's work in my life made the lives of those around me better?

If I think God is only interested in making my life better, I've missed the point. He is redeeming His entire world and that means I am one of His agents of redemption. I'm going to try to pay close attention this week to see how God is changing me to change the lives of others.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Thursday Thirteen: 13 Simple Tricks to Improve Your Bible Study Time

We all need a foundation in life. Some look to gurus for ultimate wisdom, others take their cues from celebrities. Podcasts are a new source for personal growth and ancient literature still informs the worldview of many.

My foundation is God's Word. Everything starts there for me, so I want to know it as well as I can. Here are 13 different approaches I take to help me open myself to the insight of the Bible.


1. Pray first

2. Re-write the passage in your own words

3. Jot down the first things that come to mind as you read

4. Make a list of questions you have

5. Use commentaries, friends, and the internet to find answers to your questions

6. Consider if the passage brings to mind teachings of Jesus

7. Think about Old Testament stories which may apply or be similar to the passage

8. Identify several key words and meditate on them

9. Use a concordance to find and consider other passages which use the same and similar words

10. Consider every day experiences which illustrate the passage's main idea

11. Write a personal response to the passage

12. Draw a picture illustrating the truth of the passage

13. Set a daily goal based on the teaching of the passage